I was at a CD launch yesterday (this CD – it turned out to be the composer’s 75th birthday, as well, so we all joined in the obvious song during the wine and cheese do after the short recital by Michael Houstoun) and I found myself wondering what it must be like to hear your own work performed. It couldn’t be like reading your own text, could it? – perhaps more like having it read to you?
And then I had the facepalm moment. It was a wet day yesterday (84mm) and I’d spent the afternoon sheltering in Victoria University solving puzzles and writing some clues (never as many as you’d like…). Among the puzzles I solved was one of my own, delivered courtesy of Enigmatist: Inquisitor No. 132 (original numbering, back when the crossword page bore the title Independent Pursuits). That’s 1991. Could I remember the puzzle, which was called Countdown? No, I could not, so I had to set to and solve it. This wasn’t difficult – the gimmick had omitted letters in some across entries which, in conjunction with the title, allowed identification of the unclued down entries. And as soon as I got the first omitted letter, the full idea flooded back. I did then finish the puzzle by mopping up the unsolved clues, of which there were quite a few.
Did I enjoy it? Well, actually, yes. It was a very pleasant solve and I guess I didn’t have the usual issue of needing to ‘get inside the setter’s mind’… I shall put it up on the site next time IQ comes up on the roster (early 2017) – there’s nothing in the above paragraph that you aren’t given in the pramble.
Meanwhile you can see what 25 years have done to Phi Inquisitor crosswords next Saturday (19 November) when Watt Whip will appear (not giving anything away by early release of the title, as you’ll see). With Famous Last Words as today’s Enigmatic Variations puzzle, and the Listener slot on 5 November, I’ve actually managed three consecutive weeks when I don’t have all three to solve! Setter’s blogs for all will follow, starting with the Listener one this coming Thursday/Friday, after the closing date, with EV and IQ (which have adjacent closing dates) following at the start of December.
The puzzle this time is an Independent cryptic from 2006, selected because it seemed to be the one that year where I didn’t get a paper copy for some reason. So what you have is my original submission, without any chance to see whether there were editorial interventions!
I should also make quick mention of the ne book by Alan Connor. Following on from his crossword history, Two Girls, One on Each Knee, he has produced The Joy of Quiz. As a past contestant on Mastermind (even before IQ 132), I naturally gravitated to this. Comments on a recent Magpie puzzle claimed I had scored 42 on Mastermind – but that was Kevin Ashman, who rightly gets about half-a-chapter (maybe slightly more) in this book. I still remember watching Kevin, after his visit here, trying to negotiate with Qantas at Wellington Airport about accommodating all the books he’d bought without causing the plane to tilt alarmingly. Connor talks a little about how question-setters are not meant to outwit everyone all the time, but must learn how to lose gracefully, which is very like the writing of clues and construction of puzzles. Likewise the riffling through of possibly-related information to make connections, and the care needed to construct the question (clue) in a way that leads the contestant (solver) to the right answer. I did think – but then I would, wouldn’t I? – that more could have been made of these. But it’s a nicely-paced book, which draws you through the various events in the history of (largely) television quizzing.
And a little footnote for any who come upon this after noticing we had a 7.5 earthquake a few hours after I wrote the above: still here (now 3 am our time), power on, about to try and get back to sleep. Main damage is to wineglasses.